Friday, January 11, 2013

The Wine Guerilla Gets a Grip on Savings

One of the best producers of classic Sonoma County Zinfandel is the Wine Guerrilla. I sampled many of their products at a superb wine dinner held at La Casa Sena in Santa Fe for Albuquerque Arts & Entertainment magazine. There, executive chef Patrick Garrity amazed me by pairing these Zins with everything from appetizer to dessert. 

As a Zin-fanatic myself I was in heaven with these well-crafted Zinfandel wines and now you can too, as Bruce Patch, owner of Wine Guerrilla is offering a marvelous 6-pack of his wines at an incredible price. The details are below.

To celebrate the upcoming 2013 ZAP festival in San Francisco we've put together a tasty 6-pack for you Zin lovers. We're packing one bottle each of the 2010 Conte Vineyard Russian River, 2010 Mounts Vineyard 'Cypress Block' Dry Creek, 2010 Monte Rosso 'Block E44' Sonoma Valley, 2009 Coffaro Vineyards 'old vine' Dry Creek Valley, 2009 Harris-Kratka Alexander Valley & the 90 point Spectator 2009 Forchini Vineyards 'old vine' Dry Creek Valley all in a 6-pack ready to go to your home or business. This is an excellent opportunity to sample six different single vineyard Guerrilla Zins without buying a full case. This 6-pack would cost $225 if ordered through our website. Now you pay only $159 plus $19 shipping to anywhere we ship except Hawaii & Alaska. Californians will be charged tax. That's big savings on the wine PLUS you'll be saving money on the shipping too.

We'll ship as soon as we process your order. This offer good until midnight Sunday, January 13th PST and is not available through our website. You know the 707-887-1996 or email to take advantage of this pre ZAP offer. And remember, Guerrilla Zinfandels go great with most known foods!

I had to pass this deal on to my readers, but you need to act fast!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

What's in a Name?

Cheddar. Bologna. Anaheim Pepper. Buffalo Wings. Dijon. Colby. What do these things have in common? Besides being the ingredients for a delicious lunch, these are all foods named after the place that they were first created. In fact, some cities are downright proprietary about it. Buffalo, New York lists the restaurant that first served their famous wings in 1964 on their official website. Many products are even protected legally, and cannot be named as such unless they are made in a specific area of the world.

"Gee, that's great, Jim. Thanks for making me hungry. But what does that have to do with wine?"

There is no such product or group of people as attached to a place of origin as those who make champagne. There are many sparkling wines produced worldwide, yet countries have laws in place that reserve the appellate champagne exclusively for sparkling wines from the Champagne area in France. The wine makers have several legal organizations that protect their interests, including the Comité Interprofessionel du Vin de Champagne. The name champagne is legally protected by the Treaty of Madrid (signed in 1891), and again in another treaty in the 1920s.

Here in the US, we were a bit late to jump on the "ban" wagon. Other nations have respected the nomen for over a century, and the United States has only been on board for the last 7 years. Now, only those that had approval to use the term on labels before 2006 may continue to use it and only when it is accompanied by the wine's actual place of origin. The French producers even have lobbyists in the US government to protect their interests.

This leads us to the next point today- a little bit of breaking news. It's a tradition for the menu for the Presidential Inaugural Ball to be released early, and this month's selection bubbled some resentment to the surface. The chef chose an American "champagne", Korbel Natural, Special Inaugural Cuvée Champagne from California and the French lobby is très fâche.

You can read more about that in the articles below. It seems that they are not upset that a California wine was the selected winner, but rather that it was listed "Korbel Natural, Special Inaugural Cuvée Champagne- California" and not as "California Champagne."

So what is in a name? Centuries of history, a lot of politics, and a high standard.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Winter Vines: Why Vines Need a Rest, too.

You are in your Pajamas, it's 11:30 in the morning and you are watching bad television. It's cold outside and you can hear the cars in your neighborhood shudder as they are turned on. You've got your lunch on your lap. So what if it's a little bit early, it's winter and you are in hibernation mode.

Just like you, wine vines work hard for the rest of the season and become dormant in the winter. During this time cuttings are often taken from the mother root, and the vine stores up nutrients and hardens itself. Dormancy protects the vine from cold, and changes nitrate-nitrogen to arginine. You may think that the grapevine is at the mercy of the winter wind, but actually the plants need a sufficient dormancy period to produce quality fruit. In fact, this is such a problem in southern California that vineyards treat their grapes with chemicals to stop too early of a growth.

Grapes need anywhere between 250 and 800 hours of winter below 45 degrees to be at optimum for the growing season. (If you would like to read some more information on how to grow grapes in your own backyard while respecting the dormancy requirements of the plant, read here)
Another thing that is integral to the vine's health and production that happens in the dormant winter period is pruning. Annual dormant pruning removes the previous year’s fruiting canes or spurs (now two years old) and excess one-year-old canes. The fruiting habit of grapevines dictates a pruning practice that encourages the annual development of new fruiting wood. Fruit is only produced on shoots growing from one-year-old canes. Therefore, healthy new canes must be produced every year to maintain annual production of fruit. See the picture below for an example.

So the next time that you decide to watch all the Dune movies ever made, don't feel bad. Pour yourself a glass of wine,  and respect the rest that you both need and deserve.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Captain Andy Sunset Wine Cruise

A sunset cruise around the garden isle of Kauai sounds like a no-brainer. Who wouldn’t want to go? But there are sunset cruises and then there is the one Captain Andy sails aboard the Southern Star that navigates the Na’Pali coast. This is the Cadillac of sunset cruises for many reasons.

The Southern Star is a 65 foot catamaran with its own chef’s kitchen, wide bar in the main cabin, and generous room for the passengers to enjoy the run of the boat. The food prepared and served on board by executive chef Stephen. The cuisine is what one might expect from a fine restaurant, but with unparalleled views of one of the most stunning coasts in the world; the Na’Pali coast. 

Sheer walls of verdant green, jagged cliffs and lush valleys are interspersed with towering waterfalls that descend thousands of feet to hidden pools and streams. The cry of sea birds blends with surging surf crashing against the jumbled rocks below.

Unfortunately for us, this time the sea was too rough to follow the north coast, so Captain Rick advised us he’d have to track the southern coast. He asked, “Did we still want to go?” We were still on for the cruise, knowing it was our safety and comfort uppermost in his mind. I also knew from previous cruises that the wine would be good and the Mai Tai and Sneaky Tiki cocktails would be strong and authentic. 

Once onboard I enjoyed my Mai Tai with fresh pineapple and salt spray at the fantail, um, correction, my first Mai Tai. I decided not to compound things by trying the Sneaky Tiki, but checked out the wines they had at the bar. I sampled a few and decided we were in for a good time.

The Caesar and Island salads went quite well with the Talbott Logan Chardonnay, which was from Sleepy Hollow vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands, a premier wine region in California. A nice balance between French Oak and stainless brings out the richness in the grape without bludgeoning it. The melon, pear and pineapple would seem to be custom-made for an island cruise, and it often earns 90 points from wine specialists. We were off to a good start.

The dinner was excellent; NY Strip from beef on the Big Island, sliced potato and taro root, asparagus and carrots and big, flavorful prawns. A classic surf and turf, made all the better with a Kali Hart 2007 Pinot Noir from the Monterey coast. This one is also from Talbott Winery, which has a way of making mid-priced wines taste like high-priced and this Pinot was no exception.

Aged in French oak for 9 months it exhibits flavors of red current and red berry with plumy notes. The vanilla flavors and oak are nicely integrated assuring easy drinking and made to handle the shrimp and beef. I confess I indulged a lot, but I’m blaming it on the sea air, great views and wonderful food and wine pairing. 

If this sounds like your kind of cruise, one bit of advice: reserve early. A sunset cruise this good fills up early and you don’t want to left on shore when Captain Andy sets sail. Aloha!